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Newbie here...1 level ACDF and feeling like a wimp!

jojojjojo Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello everyone -

I am just under 3 weeks post-op from a 1 level c5/c6 ACDF.
I went back to work on Tuesday of this past week - which was exactly 2 weeks to the day from my surgery - and I didn't think I would make it through the day! I sit at a computer all day... but I just felt totally exhausted
...like the process of getting up, getting ready and getting to work made me feel like I needed to go back to the recliner/heating pad for another week. I did, thankfully, make it through the day and Wed. - Fri. got gradually better...a little more each day. Saturday though (yesterday) I started feeling pretty rough again... alot of pain & stiffness in my neck and both shoulders...and unfortunately today is even worse. I feel like I am on a roller coaster. 1 day I feel pretty good and almost "normal" and the next day or 2 I feel worse than ever. I am trying to do everything around the house that I can w/out "breaking" my 5 lb. lifting restriction. My husband and co-workers seem to think I just need to keep going, keep moving, get back into my routine (instead of sitting in the recliner with a heating pad on my neck all weekend) and I will regain my strength and energy & lose the pain and stiffness... As if, by not jumping out of bed every morning and acting like I feel great and forcing myself to Go, Go, Go... I am bringing the "slow" recovery on myself.

I am a 39 year old, very healthy female - not in great physical shape - not in terrible physical shape either. Just in kind of "40 year old Mom shape" I guess. haha.

**I have, however, suffered from chronic neck and lower back pain for at least the past 10 years. I was never taken seriously about my pain level until the disc in my neck completely ruptured/degenerated/whatever and nothing helped...hence the surgery. My only lumbar MRI - 1 1/2 years ago was completely normal(so they say... I have a VERY hard time believing it but what can I do??) To this very day my lower back hurts much more than my neck most of the time!**

This is the first surgery I have ever had and I feel so wimpy reading stories on here about people having multiple fusions & much more extensive procedures than I had. Of course, you guys are recovering at a slower pace than I "should be". I am not understanding why with a 1 level fusion I still feel like I have been hit by a Mac truck some days?!

It may be my paranoia... or maybe not, but my boss seems to have a definite attitude of "it's been 3 weeks since your surgery... why do you still feel bad?"

I apologize for this extremely long post. If you read it all, thanks for bearing with me! I would love to see some recovery stories about how others with a 1 level fusion did. How long til you felt 100% better? Or even 80% or 90% better on a cosistent basis. Does my recovery sound normal? Am I being a wimp? Should I pretend I feel great and keep doing lots of stuff? My body is telling me "no" but my head is telling me "yes".

Thanks in advance for any insight as to why I am still feeling so bad some days. If I am a wimp... just be honest... I can take it! :)))



  • I wanted to welcome you to spine health and let you know that no you are NOT a wimp! You are soo early out from your surgery and already back at work after just two weeks. I have not yet had my surgery (lumbar) but I definately don't think that you should be expected to be back to "normal" so early out, you are recovering from major surgery whether it be one, two or more levels. I am sure others that have been through your procedure will chime in, and let you know their experiences. Please try not to over do it, listen to your body. Please keep adhearing to your restrictions, go ahead and relax and use your heating pad, don't over do because "others" think you should be doing more and feeling better. All the best to you, please keep us updated on your progress.
    gentle >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • I truly appreciate your encouragement!
    Thank you so much!
    gentle >:D< back at ya!
  • I am 10 days post op and I cannot sleep. As soon as I lie down the pain starts in my shoulder shoots down to my elbow, and will not go away. Is this normal? I also feel like a wimp. 2 level ACDF rainylady in WA
  • hey jojo u r not being a wimp and i am very suprised your doctor let u go back to work sooo early! i had a ACDF C5-6 in august and i am still having a really rough time. I have a very physical job and i didnt go back for 7 weeks and i still think that was too early. Dont let your family or work tell you to do anything! You r the only one who knows how u feel and you should DEFINETLY listen to your body and back off when u need to. this is a very traumatic surgery for your body to adjust to and you need to take it easy, i have found that sitting at the computer and bending my neck is very painful. i cant see how you do it all day!Anyway just wanted to chime in and let you know to tell everyone to BACK OFF and do what you need to to feel better!!!! good luck and take care!
  • Welcome to Spine Health and to meeting up with lots of potential friends who understand your pain and frustrations. :H

    I haven't had a cervical fusion, but know the frustrations and traumas of a lumbar fusion recovery.

    Everyone is different, and some people may recover in the time your surgeon talked about, but there are a lot of us who need more time to get back to 'normal' duties. If your body needs more time, then you look after it!!
    You don't want to upset your recovery and delay it even further.

    You are not a wimp!!

    Spinal surgery is a major trauma to your body and it can take a long while to get over than and for things to settle down again - particularly the nerves and muscle spasms.

    A lot of us here totally understand the feeling of failure because we are not recovering as quickly as our work colleagues or family and friends think we should. They have not experienced this, and have no idea how hard it is!

    Sitting at a computer is one of the hardest things for neck problems.
    Do you manage to get up every now and again and take a walk? If not, is there any way that you can?

    When you get home, look after yourself and allow your neck to relax. At the weekend, give yourself time to rest and pamper yourself. Read some of the articles on here and others' experiences. Perhaps you can get your family to read them too, to help them to realise that this recovery is tough and long.

    We understand Jojo, and are here to listen and encourage you along this bumpy road. Keep up the good healing, but remember you are the only one who really knows when you have done enough. Look after yourself. You are worth it! >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Yikes you are already back to work and looking at a computer all day! As said above, I'm surprised your doctor allowed that. Generally the least amount of time for recovery is 6 to 8 weeks and then some go back part time. I had C5/6 fusion 1/2008 and didn't feel back to normal for 3 months.

    I seriously would consider contacting your doctor and asking for more time off from work. Try not to let others influence how you are feeling. You know better than they do.

    Best wishes,

  • Thanks so much to all who have replied with your support & encouragement! I really appreciate it... you have no idea how much better you have all made me feel...Hugs to All! :)

  • Well guys... I am sitting here at work again today and my not-very-understanding boss has talked with me today about how I need to really get busy and get caught back up with my work. Whaaaa????

    My next post-op appt. is this Wed. the 19th & I will be talking to my surgeon about taking at least 2 more weeks off.

    I spoke to our HR person and told her that a lot of people who just had the surgery I had take 6 - 8 weeks off of work...so they should feel lucky I came back so soon! :P

    Anyhow, I thought I would share that little tidbit with you guys...since I knew you would understand my frustration. ~X(

  • Hi, You are not a wimp. I had the exact same surgery on Dec. 16th. Most days I am still in ton's of pain. I hate taking pain killers so it's a ton of fun. Sitting at the computer is very very painful. I cannot even guess how you would feel after all day. I like you have problems with my lower back. 5 years ago an MRI was ordered for my lower back. Arthritis was found, and a few minor problems. Now I can't stand for more then a few minutes. I cannot walk from the front of a grocery/walmart to the back without wishing I never went out. However my insurance company won't pay for a new MRI. So, in addition to the neck, and shoulder stuff. Don't forget the numbness in arm, and hand I have. My lower back, and hips are screaming. So, your not a wimp. Everyones different from what I have seen/hear/felt. So, talk to your doctor, and don't let anyone push you into something you just can't handle. Good luck, and hope you feel better soon.

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    You are a individual with with your own pre-surgical pathology and surgical intervention-revision. It is impossible to compare your experience and recovery to anyone elses. We are all different. Just take it easy .... DON't over do it or you may have to get a revision done again like mine. Trust me, thats something you really want to avoid!

    Warmest regards and rapid healing,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Hi JoJo. You went to work very quickly. I had a 2 level ACDF C5-6 C6-7 on 12/9/2010. I have not been back to work yet. I give you credit for even trying. My surgeon told me at 3 weeks I could go back to work if I felt comfortable. I still don't. I get muscle spasms if I sit in front of a computer for 30 minutes or drive for that long. I go for a 6 week check on Wed. and still I am not sure I can go back and perform my job to an acceptable level. I am a teacher and need to drive 30 minutes each way. You need to give your body time to heal and fuse. I was told don't go back until you are ready because you don't want to have surgery again. PLEASE give yourself time to heal.
  • FWIW..."You'll be able to return to work in 2 weeks if in an office environment" was written on the What to Expect after Surgery sheet given to me pre-op. I'm not working right now, but I can't imagine having gone back to work after 2 weeks. Surgery makes you so tired and it wasnt until my 4th week that I started finding more energy! I think your Boss is wrong to make such a disrespectful judgement to you. I think your a tough cookie JoJo. Do what you have to do in order to have a good recovery. If that means taking another 2 or 3 weeks off...so be it! Your not a whimp!
  • Well! My complete b*tch (sorry...can't help it) got a surprise when I came back from my post-op appointment on Wednesday with orders for 1 month off work. She was not happy at all... and I am so laughing inside! =)) And so thankful my Dr. agreed with me that I could not work just yet. The reason he was so agreeable, though, was when I told him how many pain pills I was taking per day...to make it through the day at work. Now, mind you, his prescription says I could take 1-2 pills every 4-6 hours. So if I took the maximum written - that would be 12 pills a day. I was probably taking 8 (7.5/325 mg Percs) I have a very high tolerance for pain meds. I have taken Paxil for 15 years since a major depressive episode after the birth of my son. Anyhoo, my shrink believes the anti-depressant along with the amount of time I have taken it makes my body metabolize some meds differently and he was not at all surprised to hear that I could take 8 - 10 Lortab or Percs a day (pre-surgery) and not have the slightest bit of "loopiness" or sleepiness or whatever... if anything, most of the time it's the other way around... increased energy.

    Now...the Doc wants me to try to cut it down to no more than 4 7.5 mg of pain meds per day. He has always been so wonderful & understanding... but his attitude seemed to totally change when I told him I was still taking that much pain med (I hope I am being paranoid...but he took a very "tough" stance with me about it). To be perfectly honest... I hurt more now than before my surgery.

    I am so full of stuff to say - but I think it is all off topic here so I will leave it with this... I thank you all so much for your stories and encouragement. Without it I don't know if I would have had the courage to stand up to my boss, who, as we already know is not nice...or ask my Dr. to order more time off.

    Those of you who are still in the same boat I am - I wish a speedy recovery... and decreased pain for all of us!

    None of us are wimps...we are ALL "tough cookies" as CGM said above. :)
  • So glad that you are now taking off a month. I do not thinhk there is that much of a difference between 1 or 2 level ACDF. Maybe I'm wrong, both are major surgery with anesthesia, being opened up, disk removed, maybe a cage, BMP, plate and screws. All of that causes trauma to the site and affects the surrounding area. I can only be on the computer for about 30 minutes before I get a pin, knot or stabbing in my shoulder. I also get pain in the back of my neck between my shoulder blades I guess at the spinal column area. My surgery was 12/9 and there was no way I would have been able to go back to work when you did. It was amazing that you were able to function for as long and well as you did. How is your ROM (range of motion) in your neck? Does the drive to work cause stress and additional pain. I wanted to go back after 6 weeks and my surgeon said no based on my ROM and pain that I was experiencing and I am only taking the pain meds or muscle relaxer once in a while. Good luck decreasing your pain meds. I know sitting on the recliner with my head back helps decrease some of the pain when I do too much. Good luck to you... You are a STRONG individual. :)
  • Hey jojo i am so glad u stood up for ur self and got additional time off! I know it will benefit u in the end. I know exactly what u mean about the pain and the meds. It really sucks to HAVE to take them but u do what u have to to make it thru the day. I wish the very best for u and hope u feel better soon!I also hurt more now than before surgery and of course the doc thinks im full of sh*t. But he did acknowldge that he thinks my hardware is "LOOSE" whatever that means!! I just know i am in 9/10 pain all the time.Sorry to ramble but good luck!!
  • Haven't heard from anyone on this tread for a bit. I hope that everyone is doing as well as can be expected.

    Have a great weekend.
    :) frenchfri
  • I don't have anything good to say...so I haven't said anything at all. Isn't that what my mom always told me? :)

    I am on day 3 of an excruciating headache. Feels like it is from the horrible tension in my neck & shoulders. I am no stranger to tension headaches - but I can usually get them under control fairly quickly. My Dr. gave me Valium for muscle spasms but it's not doing the trick.

    Also, the back of my neck still hurts quite a bit so I have been in the recliner w/ a heating pad a lot. Now my tailbone is KILLING me!

    Arrrrrrrgh! Does it ever end?? I am actually up and moving around in hopes it will at least help the tailbone pain. Making my baby boy (he is 15... haha!) some yummy blueberry muffins for "breakfast". It is 11am here and he just woke up. Oh to be a teenager again. :)

    I hope everyone is doing well... and pain free as possible.

    Happy Weekend!

  • Yes, our mothers did teach us that rule. But here you are allowed to vent, complain and then get some support. Do you have any other pain meds that might help get ride of the headache or help you relax: hydrocodone, tramadol or something like that.When and what surgery did you have? I can't remember. My baby boy is 17. He has similar sleeping habits on the weekends. Blueberry muffins sound yummy. Hope he appreciated them. I made mine a pan of brownies. i enjoyed them also. Hope you are feeling better. Emotionally I am a bit better as it was sunny and above 32* so I went out for a walk on two different occasions. Felt good to be out and walking. Remember you are allowed to vent on his site and not feel guilty.

  • How are you doing? Haven't seen a post from you in a while. How are the headaches, pain in the neck and shoulders?
    I pushed my OSS to let me go back to work. As a teacher I will be going back for one week to see how I do and then I will have one week off. I am scared, nervous but excited. They really wanted me to wait and go back on 2/28 but I am bored and willing to give is a try. If it doesn't work then I will take off the rest of the week.
    Hope to here from you soon.. good or bad..

    12/9/2010 ACDF C5-6 C6-7
    2/14/2011 trying to go back to work
    2/17/2011 starting PT
    wearing bone stimulator 4 hours a day
    DDD, arthritis, herniated disks, pinched nerves
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